Rhabdomyolysis is an extremely dangerous condition that otherwise perfectly healthy people can get. Ironically, it is frequently caused by the very activity they’re doing to get in shape: strenuous exercise.
You’ve probably never heard of Rhabdomyolysis. Kelly, a Doctor On Demand patient, was recently afflicted with it. Kelly is a healthy California mom and a regular runner. She never thought a spinning class could send her to the ER. Kelly had a potentially life-altering case of Exercise-Induced Rhabdomyolysis this spring. Fortunately, she’s back in perfect health.
What is Rhabdomyolysis? It’s the breakdown of muscle from overexertion that leads proteins to leach into the blood and create a high concentration of a protein (creatine kinase) that the body is unable to process. These toxic levels of protein leak into the urine and can block up the kidney, causing severe damage.
How did Kelly get Rhabdomyolysis?One Monday morning, she decided to try her first spinning class with a group of moms. The instructor pushed everyone to go harder and faster. She found the class challenging but manageable, and left the studio slightly wobbly and tired. That evening, Kelly began to experience pain in her quadriceps that became progressively worse as time passed. As Tuesday progressed, she became more immobile. Picking her feet up off the ground was almost impossible. That night, she woke up in tears.
Over the next couple of days, her pain only intensified.
On Thursday, as Kelly was leaving to pick up her daughter from school, she made a quick trip to the bathroom. Her urine was dark red. She was concerned, but was late to get her daughter. She decided to call Doctor on Demand from the car.
Within a minute she was connected with a doctor, and he listened as Kelly described the recent events. What the physician told her next was shocking.
"Hang up the phone immediately and go to the Emergency Room" he said.
The doctor told Kelly to tell the ER nurses that she may have Exercise-induced Rhabdomyolysis. She arrived at the ER that Thursday and was not released until the following Monday. Kelly says that she had so much protein in her blood that her body couldn’t naturally flush it from her system.
Had she waited to schedule a doctor’s appointment after picking up her daughter from school, she may have had to wait hours, or even days, before seeing a physician. If she had waited much longer before going to the Emergency Room, she may have suffered from kidney failure. Thankfully, she was connected with a doctor in minutes who told her exactly what she needed to know.
It is important to be aware of the consequences of any new workout, so make sure to consult a doctor before beginning a new exercise routine. Doctor On Demand’s Dr. Ian Tong has outlined Rhabdomyolysis prevention tips and warning signs so you can be informed before you hit the gym.
- Stay hydrated and make sure that you have adequate nutrition so your body has what it needs to sustain itself through strenuous activity
- Make sure your body can stay cool – wear light, breathable clothing when you exercise
- Don’t overexert yourself or try an exercise program that your body is not prepared for
- Extreme pain in muscles, typically the proximal muscles such as the thighs, shoulders, and the back
- Dark red urine (from myglobin protein)